“Inflexibility in Routine” by Sara Rocha

Sara Rocha

During my life I have received many comments about how I didn’t give in and how I was too rigid in the plans I made. This is actually true to some extent, but totally untrue in others. Nowadays as I analyze my life, I realize that everything I do has to have a specific purpose.

I don’t travel to “travel”, I go to specific places to do specific things, and I can’t go “for a walk” without a purpose. I don’t go out without a purpose, or “let’s go for a walk somewhere without a plan.” In fact, I get internally irritated when people suggest that.

I am very happy to be alone and focus on my special interests, and to stop and leave that for socializing, with all the need to mask it and all the associated effort, makes me need a reason, or purpose. We only have a specific amount of daily energy for everything in our lives, our jobs, friends, relationships, and allocating that energy to things that have a purpose makes sure that I don’t get too tired or have a burnout or meltdown.

Situations where “we’ll see”, means I’ll have to continually not know how much I’ll have to mask and how much effort I’ll have to put in for no specific purpose other than other people wanting it. I’m not good with unexpected and unplanned situations, which leave me extremely overwhelmed and confused, so having a purpose and a path helps me control my own environment and make sure the outcome is worth all the effort.

Neurotypicals like unplanned things and some even blame us as “inflexible” and “too rigid” for not agreeing to this kind of carefree situation, but for us it’s not carefree at all. In fact, it requires immense preparation on our part.

I don’t think autistic people are not flexible. I think we are quite flexible, because we live in a world where we have to constantly adapt to the neurotypical way of working, socializing, or being. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for us to take care of our energy levels and use them for specific things to ensure “survival” in a world that was not designed for us.

Be aware that all social encounters drain us of energy, and most things in life need to have at least a small level of socialization. Now imagine that you can only handle a specific part of that, at work, family, friends, partners, etc. Would you risk getting involved in situations that require you to expend an indeterminate level of energy for no specific reason, and then not have enough to work with? Or would you focus on things that have a purpose, like work, allocating whatever energy remains to worthwhile things?

It’s not unreasonable, I think, to want to spend the small amount of energy we have on something we really enjoy, rather than pushing ourselves until we have a meltdown or painful exhaustion.

Also, my experience with autistic people is that we are quite flexible in terms of accepting who people are. Although we control our environment, we don’t tend to control people. Some neurotypical people, however, are very inflexible to things like different sexualities or non-binary genders.

We have to be flexible every day of our lives, with the amount of sound in a bar, the small talk at work, the dating scene, the way friendships work. Everything in our lives has to adapt to a world of neurotypicals, and they rarely, if ever, have to adapt to us.

So, in reality, who is really inflexible?